Posted in Infant, Parenting

Ditching the Paci and Swaddle: “Cold Turkey” Style!

It is time.

Today is the day.

Batten down the hatches!

Today, we get rid of the pacifier AND the swaddle. (Today, being three days ago when I started writing this post, by the way)

Bear with me folks.  This ain’t for the faint of heart.

Think I’m crazy?  Stick with me as I make my case.

Exhibit A : The Pacifier

It may well look inoffensive and all with its small size and cute patterns, but in our household this little thing has become the weapon of all weapons in my son’s fight against sleep (mine, not his).  You see, around here, these nipple replacements have become what are known as ‘props’.

In the world of parenting, a prop is defined as an action or object that a baby is dependent upon to fall asleep AND cannot control.  For instance, for a baby who can only fall asleep in his swing, the swing would be a prop because he doesn’t know how to fall asleep any other way and he is unable to control the swing.  In the case of my son, the pacifier had become a prop because though he needed to comfort suck in order to fall asleep, the only way he was able to do that was with a pacifier.  And since he was unable to put the pacifier back in when it fell out or he pulled it out accidentally, it had become a prop as either his father or myself (or any other caregiver for that matter) had to stick the thing (back) in.

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while know of my initial internal battle with regards to introducing the pacifier.  Then, once it became a problem, you were able to read about my use of Pantley’s gentle removal as described in her book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.  To be fair, the no-cry method actually did work in reducing night wakings (NW) due to my son waking up without the pacifier in his mouth and he went from 15 NW to 3 in a manner of days.  However, he still needed someone to initially stick the pacifier in and then stay with him to pull it out before he fell asleep and so, he still wasn’t learning to fall asleep on his own.  There was also the fact that we had only managed to use the gentle removal for bedtime sleep because using it for naps cut into his daytime sleep too much.

In sum, the paci had to go.  But this little thing was not my only problem.

Exhibit B: The Swaddle

Swaddling is an art that every parent should learn.  In the weeks following birth, swaddling really helps in providing a feeling of security in a newborn by allowing them to feel the snugness they felt in the womb as well as containing their limbs when the moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex) kicks in while they sleep.  Now swaddling really saved us when Charles was about 6 weeks old.  But as time went by, it too became a prop.  When he outgrew his receiving blankets, I bought a “swaddle me” blanket (and was in awe over the awesomeness of the velcro).  When he outgrew that, I started using a bedsheet and experimented with various swaddling techniques.  The problem is that as time went by, he managed to break out of every swaddle, no matter how tight.  I would change my way of swaddling and he would do great for a couple of days – until he worked out how to break out of the new method.  And so, not only was I getting up at night (and going in during early wakings from naps) to replug the pacifier, I was also having to reswaddle.  This is generally a surefire sign that it is time to wean off the swaddle.

Then, my son started to figure out that he could probably roll – both ways.  Though he’s not quite there yet, I know it’s just a matter of time.  Once a baby is able to roll from back to tummy, it becomes dangerous to swaddle, because they could end up on their tummy and not be able to clear their face from the mattress.  Not good!  Just the thought of this happening got me worked up enough to not allow me to sleep peacefully because I started becoming worried that he would figure out how to roll when he was sleeping.  (Perhaps I shouldn’t have worried, but I did and since I already have problems with insomnia, I figured I would remove one of the aspects that could cause my hyperactive brain to go into overdrive).

And so, the swaddle had to go.

Oh but wait a minute!  I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t just ditch the swaddle but keep the pacifier, right?  I mean, it sounds so cruel to get rid of both at the same time AND do it cold turkey (I know, I know, I should change my blog to “meanie mommy” right?).  But you see, what you don’t know is that when my son is not swaddled, or when my son is partially swaddled (because we actually DID try to wean from the swaddle progressively) he grabs on to the ring of his pacifier and pulls it out of his mouth and then throws it because he’s unable to stick it back in.  Those of you who know what it’s like to frantically search for the pacifier that was thrown on the ground in a pitch dark room in the middle of the night while trying to calm down your screaming baby know why the pacifier had to go as well.

Am I sounding defensive?  Perhaps I am.  But I know that despite the fact that I took away my son’s two comfort items-that-had-become-props and have done it cold turkey I am still a good mom.  My son is not a “poor baby” because mommy took his pacifier away.  My son is developmentally ready to learn the skills necessary to help him SELF-soothe.  ‘Tis the first step in his independence which, ultimately is the goal of each parent, right?  Allowing their children to develop the skills to become independent.

The method

So, do you want to know how I’m going about this cold turkey weaning?  Of course you do!  I’m using Tracy Hogg’s Pick Up Put Down (PUPD) method as described in her last book The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.  Below is an “in the nutshell” description of the method for a baby in the 4-6 month age range.

Step 1: You put your baby down without his props after a proper wind-down routine.

Step 2: When he starts to cry, you try to soothe him from his crib by speaking to him in a calm and reassuring manner and by using any other appropriate method (I usually rub his tummy or tap on his thigh).

Step 3: If and when his cry becomes distressed, you pick him up and hold him upright as though you were burping him.  You don’t jiggle around, just stand there and continue to reassure him with words and touch (for instance, rubbing his back).

Step 4: You put your baby back down in his crib:

-As soon as he calms down, or;

-After 2-3 minutes, or;

-If he fights you (arches his back, burrows his head…).

Rinse and repeat until your baby is asleep.


– It’s important to try to soothe from the crib first.  Eventually, you’ll want to get yourself out of sight and reassure only with your voice.
– If your baby starts to cry on the way back down to his crib, you still put him all the way down on in his crib and try to soothe from there before picking him back up.
– If your baby still isn’t asleep after 40 minutes, take him out of the room for a change of scenery for 5-10 minutes and try again for another 40 minutes after that.
– Start with the first nap of the day so that you baby will have had some practice before bedtime.
– GET SOME SUPPORT!  I made sure my partner was on board with me before starting this.  We are doing it together.  Support is crucial.  To give you an idea, just imagine how hard it is going to be, how loudly your baby is going to cry, how long it will take before your baby finally falls asleep the first few times and tell yourself it is going to be worse than what you can imagine.  To be honest, I could NOT have done this without support from both my partner and the wonderful ladies from the PUPD board at the baby whisperer website.
– Know that there will be a regression at about 8 days when your baby will try for one last time (can last a couple of days) to go back to the old ways.

Progress (the word we all want to hear)!

We are on day 4 right now.  The first time we tried this method, it took 1.5h of continued crying, soothing and PUPD before my son fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion and he only slept for 25 minutes.  This morning, he was down for his nap in about 10 minutes and I only had to soothe him with my voice.  I was also able to extend his nap (after a diaper/bed sheet/pyjama change because he was very wet after I failed to put the thing on properly) for the first time in four days!

Key points

A couple of key points that stuck out for me while reading Hogg’s book.  This (and progress, and support) is what is allowing me to keep on going:

  • Start as you mean to go – don’t start this method if you’re not 100% committed to seeing it through.  Give it about 2 weeks.  You don’t want to go back to your old ways after starting this on account of it being too hard.  It’s not fair to put your baby through so much crying (even despite the fact that you’re there to reassure him) for nothing.

I rest my case.

Related posts

The Battle For Sleepytime: Nights 4 & 5: Oh How Life Has Changed

Sleep Training: Brooklyn Piglet


Thirty-something year old discovering the joys and bumps of motherhood.

42 thoughts on “Ditching the Paci and Swaddle: “Cold Turkey” Style!

  1. yikes dreaded sleep training! Lukily my son never would take a pacifier (terrible when you want something to ease his crying in public) but nice now that I don’t have to break that habbit. Good luck!

    1. Thanks! My son actually never wanted anything to do with a paci during the day, so I still had a sometimes crying baby in public. The worst of both worlds, I guess hehe. And yes, I agree that it is great that you don’t have that habit to break!

  2. Samuel used to pull the paci out of his mouth too. I’m sorry it got so rough but it sounds like you’re really on to something! Ten minutes – wow! 🙂

    1. Yep, I think we’re going in the right direction. I have to remind myself constantly that this is only one of the many battles that I will face as a parent. Probably, a couple of years down the line I wont even remember these days.

      1. You definitely won’t remember these days with clarity, years from now! Enjoy what you can and keep the rest in perspective. xoxo You’re doing great!

    1. I agree that there’s nothing you can do about the thumb. I actually thought that my son would take to his thumb once the pacifier gone as he had discovered how to suck on it the week before, but he never did. Guess I was just lucky 😉 I suppose she’ll stop sucking it when she starts school and realizes that no one else suck their thumb.

  3. My 16 month old still nurses all night in my bed…between my husband and I. My husband is ready for him to leave the room but I’m afraid I’ll be getting up all hours of the night to soothe him when he wakes up alone…Or…maybe I’M the one who isn’t ready.

    1. Haha, perhaps it is indeed you who isn’t ready. I totally understand though! I had my little guy sleep in his own room (right beside ours) from the get-go because I was afraid I’d become too attached to the simplicity of having him in the room with me! When you’re ready, perhaps you could ask your husband to help with the transition. When I weaned my son at 12 months, I went at it gradually. He was already down to three nursing sessions (morning, before bed and at night) and so I removed one per week. When we got to the nighttime nursing session, I asked my partner to get up for the whole week during the night. Turns out, the little guy only woke up during the first two nights, realized that there wasn’t any milk and then started STTN afterwards.

      1. I’m sure he would be fine sleeping on his own..It’s me that would miss him..Shhh don’t tell my husband 😉

  4. I’m having this problem right now with my girl, she also relies on her swaddle and dummy to go to sleep, we tried weaning from swaddling a while ago and put her in a sleep sack, but she kept pulling out the dummy in the middle of the night and wake up crying. I live in Australia and it gets extremely hot here and stays hot through the night. So I would like her to sleep without a swaddle due to the heat also. Reading this made me feel more confident in trying again!

  5. So my son is almost 5 months old and I am very ready to wean him of both, and I found this comforting. I am going to start his training tomorrow since its mid-day today and I want to try the cold turkey at the first nap of the day rather than in the mid afternoon.
    My first son I waited too long and he was 15 months old before weaning of the swaddle and 16mon of the paci. I am just so nervous I won’t last a day of the crying, I am such a sucker and can’t stand hearing him upset and my hubs is the same way. He hates hearing the kids cry more than me even. SO I am just really nervous we will cave and give them back.
    With my first son weaning was easy enough because we just cut the paci so it wouldn’t “suck” anymore and we did it to a couple of them and showed him they were “broke” and let him keep them in bed with him even though he wouldn’t actually be able to use them. took about 2-3days before he didn’t even need that. Tried doing the cut paci again for my 5 mon old. and yeah that didn’t work, he just got even more mad. so back went a uncut one. But I am hoping this will help me to stick it through and just bite the bullet and do it all at once. Knowing a time frame really helps, I think I can handle two weeks. Thanks for the encouragement I needed to try and see this through, it really helps!

  6. This sounds exactly what I’m going through! So thankful for this post and excited to try it!

    I have a question. If baby is still crying after 2-3 minutes OR starts crying as soon as you start putting him down, do you immediately try to soothe from the crib? Do you only leave the room if they’re calm?

    1. Hi Lindsay, sorry for the time it’s taken me to reply.

      Yes, if your little one starts to cry as soon as you put him/her down you would definitely try to soothe from the crib. You would also only leave the room once our little one is calm.

      Best of luck! It’s hard (both on baby and parents), but we found that it was definitely worth it.

  7. This is our problem too!!!! I’m surprised I can’t find more info/help online, as I felt sure it would be a common problem…

    I’m just not sure I can do both cold turkey….

    Has anyone tried ditching the paci at first, and keeping the swaddle (to be stopped after they are used to no paci)?

    Also, are there any other sites that talk about this conundrum please?

    Many thanks!


    1. Hi Sara!

      (Sorry for the time it took me before replying, my body decided it was ready to go into labour a couple of days earlier than anticipated so it’s been a little crazy over the past few days).

      I’m pretty sure it’s a pretty common occurrence too.

      You know, if you feel as though you can’t wean your little one off the paci and swaddle at the same time, I definitely encourage you to follow your gut and try to do one at a time.

      We actually did try getting rid of the soother first, but it didn’t work for us, because the swaddling didn’t allow for my son to be able to suck on something to fall asleep (we actually tried the Aussie swaddle so that he could reach his hand, but he just never realized that it was something he could do).

      We also tried the opposite (getting rid of the swaddle first) and tried everything from partial swaddling, to sleep sacks, to just cutting it out completely, but it didn’t work because he would always end up pulling his paci out and he wasn’t able to put it back in on his own.

      Of course, just because it didn’t work for us doesn’t mean it won’t work for you 😉

      I can ask my fellow bloggers/readers if they can share their own experiences and/or knowledge of other sites that address the issue if you want.

      In any event, best of luck with the weaning!

      1. Hi,

        Thanks so much for your reply. And congratulations! The picture of your boys on the cover page is adorable.

        I thought I would give you an update on our swaddle/dummy dilemma…

        After writing to you, he still wasn’t actually rolling over in bed, so like all true procrastinators, I did absolutely nothing except feel the impending doom weigh upon me.

        Then it happened early one morning – he rolled whilst swaddled up. And the next morning. I was right next to him and saw him both times (he was restless and finding it hard to sleep) but I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. I talked to my husband at great length. He didn’t really truly understand, me being the dummy-replacer and nighttime waker, but it was good to bounce ideas around. We even talked about sewing his grobag to the fitted sheet (!), but figured he would probably manage to swivel around inside it, and really, that was a step too far in restriction.

        So 3 nights ago I just put him to bed with no dummy. Everything else identical, including swaddle. He took a teeny bit more “Ssshhhh, it’s ok baby, sssshhhh” etc, BUT IT WORKED. I expected him to wake up and cry frequently from 2am ish, but it didn’t happen. When he woke up, I just said “Shhhhhh. shhhhh”, and he went back to sleep. Same as I would have had to do if the dummy was popped back in too.

        The following day, first nap took about 30 minutes of soothing. Second nap 15 minutes. Nighttime fine. Waking up LESS believe it or not. Then yesterday morning at first nap he had an utter meltdown. Twisting around, rolling over (eek!), so I tried taking off the swaddle too, thinking he might like to lie on his front, seeing as he was straining that way. BAD mistake. On his front he stayed with his arms straight and head up, turning bewildered around the bed. Then on his back, he just kept waving his arms around, sucking his hands sometimes, but then losing them and getting cross. I think it reminded him what he was missing, and wound him up more. So after an hour of the poor boy crying and not really being soothed, I relented and gave him the swaddle and the dummy. However, since then we’ve managed without. I think he does a funny sucky thing with his mouth which helps him drift off. And cute little sighs.

        So my plan is to get him totally used to falling asleep with no dummy, then gradually wean off the swaddle. Probably one arm at a time, though I am interested in the Aussie Swaddle you said about, which could be another step of the progression if needed.

        A sister of mine has been most unhelpful with her advice “I would get rid of his swaddle first, then his dummy”, simply because she obviously hasn’t been there. If you haven’t been in this pickle, then you JUST DON’T KNOW!

        Thank you so much for your page here. Just finding other people in the same boat has been hugely reassuring that I’m not crazy!

  8. I’very heard horror stories about pacifiers. As far as self soothing, Lucy is generally good at it. No one is perfect of course, and some nights she’ll wake up and cry out. This is usually due to needing a new diaper or a nightmare. However, instead of being attached necessarily to objects, she’s more attached to people, like my husband and I. Generally though, she’s an all around happy baby. Thank you for the post. It reassures me that what we’very been doing is good for her. Haha. Good luck with the weaning! 🙂

    1. I’m happy to hear your little girl is good at soothing herself.

      We actually did get through the pacifier weaning pretty smoothly. The first three days were definitely the hardest (oh the tears!), but my little boy quickly learned to self-soothe. I did, however swear that my next kiddos would not be getting a pacifier and I plan to keep my word. There is no way in hell that I’m giving my daughter one.

  9. My son will be 4 months on nov 17 and we just took his pacifier away last night. I used the pick up/put down method and he slept after about 5 minutes of this. He woke back up at 330 so I fed him and he easily went down. He woke back up an hour later and is now wide awake. Should I be pushing his bedtime back since he got 8 hours of sleep? 430 is a lil early to be up!

    1. Early indeed!

      Hum, does he usually get only 8 hours of sleep at night? If so, then you might try to move his bedtime at a later time.

      I’m thinking that his early wake up may be a result of him adjusting to sleeping without a pacifier. Perhaps a few more days will allow for his usual wake up time to come back to a more reasonable hour.

      Of course, it may also be because he is getting too much day sleep and so isn’t sleepy enough to wake up at a later time.

      You never know with kiddos, it always seemed to me that each time I thought I understood my son, something would change drastically and I’d have to readjust.

      Hope you were able to sneak in a nap today to catch up the missed sleep!

  10. I don’t think you have to make a case at all. You know what’s best for your baby. The way you’re working is very similar to what we did with both our kids, as advised by both sets of our parents, and both of our kids gave up the paci early and easily. Personally, I think the longer they keep it, the harder it is to break the habit. Same with the swaddle. It’s great early on, but it has to go eventually, right? You go Mama. Both my kids started spitting out their paci’s at about three maybe four months and we decided that was the time. Neither of them sucked a thumb, nothing. The swaddle took a little longer, but they gave that up too, not much later. I would walk into the room and find them de-swaddled of their own accord. I soothed them, and they learned to put themselves back to sleep, unswaddled.
    Women did this mom thing for millions of years before us without any of the conveniences we have now. They knew what was best for their babies and so do we.

    1. It’s crazy how much we feel the need to justify our actions, especially when it’s for a first child. The method I used actually did end up working really well and now I have a toddler who is a great sleeper. I much more relaxed about things with my daughter now…though I never introduced a pacifier – she sucks her thumb.

      You’re totally right: women have been doing this motherhood thing for a heck of a long time. I wonder if parenting was easier when we didn’t have a boatload of books, forums and websites. Probably. Women just followed their instincts.

  11. we tried quitting the swaddle cold turkey but after three sleepless nights we stopped. I searched for all sorts of options and learned about when a child transitions out of a swaddle. I ended up just buying two Zipadee-Zips after learning that these swaddle transitions blankets really soothe a baby and aided my little one in sleeping as she continues to grow but needs more comfort.

  12. I gift the Zipadee-Zip to all my girlfriends during baby showers!!!! It’s a soft, breathable, and made up of a wonderful cotton blend. They are excellent and useful for so many sleep related issues. LOVE THEM!

  13. Wow, i have trolled sites looking for some advice around this! My little one is 6mths and she has always been swaddled tight as a bug and had a dummy. Like your bub she started to roll all over the place so time for no swaddle. All good in theory. We tried the transitional swaddle, one arm out. She would pull her dummy in and out in and out, throw said dummy. Cue scream. Clearly not working. It became clear both had to go. I should point out that we tried the “swaddle me” type wraps where there is more movement in her arms and this just made her angry! She hated it, so there was a waste of $40 right there. Anyway, we contacted our local Community Health Sleep clinic and a nurse came for a visit. She suggested we try the “camping in” technique. Essentially my partner and I are not down with crying out style of sleep training so her cot is now against our bed without the side. The idea is that for the initial 3 nights you can shush, pat, sing whatever to get little one to sleep, for naps and night sleep. Day 4, no touching, but lying next to little one so they can see you until asleep. Then gradually you end up moving your way to the door and then you are out of the room altogether and bubba is self soothing. We are in our 3rd week…our baby wakes anywhere from 4-11 times a night. Her hands continue to wake her and cause her serious torment. The only way we can get her to sleep is by literally holding both her arms down. Sometimes her feet get in on it too and we have to hold them as well. It doesn’t seem to teach her anything and we are awake more of the night than ever before. Did your little one have this problem with their arms and hands? We are going nuts!!

    1. Oh Claire, I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles getting your little one to sleep! It is so frustrating and even more so when we are tired.

      First off, is it possible that your LO may be dealing with tummy troubles or something of the sort? At 6 months, I’m assuming that you have started solids, perhaps something she is eating is causing her enough discomfort that she just doesn’t know what to do and squirms like mad?

      Also, if she’s been waking up so much during the night it might be because she is overtired. Perhaps you might want to try to put your daughter down sleeping for a couple of nights so that she has a better chance at getting out of the overtiredness cycle. It’s also possible that her “schedule” needs to be changed. Sometimes giving LOs more (or less depending on the situation) awake time during the day helps.

      As far as squirming goes, my son was fine bu my daughter is a squirmer. We actually introduced a lovey (because I actually refused to go the way of the pacifier) once we stopped swaddling her and she took to it quickly BUT it took a long time to get her to fall asleep independently because she flailed so much. We ended up having to physically hold her on her side while shushing/patting her bum. I would also place her lovey in her hand so that she could associate it with sleeping. Then gradually, as she calmed down, I would slowly release the hand holding her shoulder and keep shushing. If she kept still, then I would do the same thing with the hand holding her hips. I would wait for her to be completely asleep before even attempting to leave the room. I had to do that for a couple of week before being able to stop holding her down.

      Anyway, holding down worked for us, be we definitely couldn’t have just shushed/patted/whatever for only three days. However if it’s not working for you, I would definitely look at other options (tummy troubles, introducing a lovey, adjusting her awake time…). I’ve also heard of parents who have taught their LO to put their soother in by themselves and who have put a LOT of them in the crib with their baby so that no matter how much they move, they can find one when they wake up. Perhaps that is something else you might consider.

      I would also encourage you to take a look at babywhispererforums. The ladies over there were godsends for me when I was on the verge of a breakdown with my son. I’m certain that they could give you a hand too.

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